Some time ago, I got a note from a reader asking, pretty much, that question:
My question to you is — I have donated to a small organization, for a year, in my town to help poor children. I have never received an explanation on how the money is used. Should I expect that and if so how do I gracefully ask for that information?
There are no legal requirements for a nonprofit to provide that information to its donors; but not to do so is just dumb.
It’s bad donor relations, and it’s not the way to keep people interested in the organization, its mission and in ongoing giving !!
The ethics of fundraising (yes, Virginia, there is such a thing!) emphasize the right of donors to know how their contributions are used, and require that donors be kept informed….
You should contact the nonprofit and ask for a copy of their latest annual report. If they don’t do annual reports, you’d be right to wonder whether they are operated in a business-like manner and are worthy of your support.
I don’t know how/if “gracefully” relates to asking for information that should, in any case, be provided to you. If the nonprofit can’t or won’t provide that kind of information to its donors, maybe a local newspaper would be interested in “investigating” what that organization does with its donations.
Obviously, you touched on a sensitive subject. I’d be interested in what you do and in the results of your inquiries.
To continue … thoughts off the top of my head:
There are lots of ways a nonprofit can keep their donors informed….
o The note thanking the donor for the gift can/should include some discussion about how
the gift will make a difference
o A note from a second person saying thanks and giving more specific information about
how the gift is being used
o A note from a person being served by the NPO discussion how they had been helped
o A “keep in touch” note; more about how the gift is being used
o A (one-page/quarterly) newsletter addressing one or two issues
o A note thanking the donor for the gift that can/should include some discussion about
how the gift will make a difference
o A note, “just to let you know how things are going”
o A note, with specific data about the number of people being helped
o A note, referring the donor to your website to get the latest info
o A call just to say thanks, and mention how the gift will help, or that it has made a
difference – and be specific
On Your Website:
o A page (that is regularly updated) discussing current programs, the number of people
being helped, and how those folks are being helped
All of that writing/communication should be in narrative/conversational format. None of it should be lists of facts/numbers. Make it easy to read, and people will read it. Make it too long, include too many statistics, make it preachy, and folks won’t want to read it.
Have a comment or a question about starting, evaluating or expanding your fundraising program? With over 30 years of counseling in major gifts, capital campaigns, bequest programs and the planning studies to precede these three, I’ll be pleased to answer your questions. Contact me at AskHank@Major-Capital-Giving.com
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